Peony Facts - For well over a century herbaceous garden
peonies have been cherished garden plants in North America. Prized for their range of colours, their
large often extravagant and intoxicatingly fragrant flowers add bright splashes
to garden borders and beds. The blooms make wonderful cut flowers and the
shrub-like stems of the plant remain after the blooms have finished providing a
handsome and dark green background in the garden throughout the season. Few
plants, once established, bloom so reliably year after year with such little
care. In the garden, peonies require little attention to thrive, making them the
perfect choice for everyone including beginning gardeners.
In our part of the country (east/central Ontario) late May to mid to late June
is the prime time to enjoy these splendid plants in glorious bloom. Although
fall is the time to plant peonies, spring is the time to pick your favourites
and to select the right colour and variety for your garden. In Ontario there are
several public gardens with peony collections. Visit the Oshawa Valley Botanical
Gardens to view their wonderful Peony Collection. For peony enthusiasts, the
Canadian Peony Society provides useful information and can be contacted through
their website www.peony.ca.
Peony Planting Hints - The ideal time to
plant or to divide and transplant peonies is anytime during the fall season when
the ground is not frozen. Choose a sunny, well drained location. As with all
perennials, thorough initial soil preparation will ensure cultural success. Soil
should be well tilled and amended with compost before planting. Do not plant
your peonies too close to trees as the tree roots will compete for food and
moisture. When spacing peonies in a bed or border allow approximately 1 metre
(3-4 feet) for each plant. (Dwarf varieties can be closer.) When you are ready
to plant, dig a hole large enough to accommodate the root system. Fill the empty
hole with water and let the water completely drain from the hole. The most
common problem with planting or transplanting peonies is planting too deep.
Plant your herbaceous peonies with the uppermost eyes no more than 1" to 2"
(2.5cm - 5cm) below the soil surface with the eyes facing upwards. Fill the hole
with soil, tamp lightly and water. For the first winter it is a good idea to
loosely mulch new roots. If you experience frost heaving do not push the plant
back down into the soil but rather build up the soil around it. Remove the mulch
in the spring to allow new growth to come to the surface.
After Flowering - At the nursery we remove the spent flowers. This allows the
plant to continue root development that it might otherwise forsake at the
expense of producing seed pods. In your garden spent flowers can be removed or
left on. As some varieties, especially singles and semi-doubles, will produce
decorative seed heads after flowering, you may choose to leave them on. Never
cut down your peony's foliage right after flowering as you are removing the
plants ability to make and store food reserves for next year's early growth and
Fall Cleanup - Peony foliage continues to look good after flowering and provides
a background in your garden for the rest of the season. Allow the foliage to
remain on the plant until touched by frost. In late fall cut your herbaceous
peony's stems down to within an inch (2.5cm) above the ground. Remove the
foliage from the garden since it can serve as a haven for fungus.
To Divide Your Peony - In the fall, dig well out from around the crown of the
plant and deep enough to lift the tuberous roots out intact. Carefully remove
the dirt and cut off the foliage. Using a sharp knife or spade, cut the plant
into sizeable portions with at least 3-5 eyes each. Proceed to plant divisions
as per instructions above.